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June 2009 Issue

By Jim Nieters

Published: June 22, 2009

“As leaders of UX organizations, we want our teams of designers and researchers to design products that change the world—to engage in strategic design.”

As leaders of UX organizations, we want our teams of designers and researchers to design products that change the world—to engage in strategic design. Often, though, UX designers and researchers get stuck with incrementalism—designing minor new features for which another functional group has provided the requirements, expecting UX to design them—regardless of whether the UX team agrees with the product direction. Perhaps we find ourselves immersed in organizations or work routines that do not provide space to think differently. This column reveals some tools that can help your team to innovate.

While the business community sometimes overuses the term, innovation is the single most important factor in business. It is what makes any company different from its competitors. An innovation is a novel idea that a company delivers to market with highly profitable results. As UX professionals, if we want our efforts to be relevant to the business, we have to think about more than just insights or great designs. Ideally, our role is to find the intersection of customer delight and financial opportunity. We need to find ways of introducing great ideas that make our companies money. Read moreRead More>

By Peter Hornsby

Published: June 22, 2009

Components are proven, reusable units of design and code that meet a specific need. As such, they enable a developer to think about solving problems at a higher level of abstraction, making the development process more efficient.”

Developers often report a sense of déjà vu when creating software—a sense they’ve already designed or coded a function. Of course, the feeling that he or she is doing unnecessary work is particularly frustrating when a developer is under pressure! The reuse of software components can help to address this problem. Components are proven, reusable units of design and code that meet a specific need. As such, they enable a developer to think about solving problems at a higher level of abstraction, making the development process more efficient. For example, rather than writing a function to print a file, a developer can find and reuse a pre-existing component that meets the requirement.

As a rule of thumb, the earlier in the development process reuse can occur, the more efficient reuse becomes. Like software component reuse, the reuse of UX design elements can be a very efficient form of reuse—particularly because this form of reuse occurs very early in the product development cycle. The ability to reuse prior work effectively is one characteristic of a mature discipline. Read moreRead More>

By Janet M. Six

Published: June 22, 2009

Send your questions to Ask UXmatters and get answers from some of the top professionals in UX.

We’ll discuss two topics in this edition of Ask UXmatters:

Ask UXmatters answers our readers’ questions about user experience matters. If you want to read our experts’ responses to your question in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your question to: ask.uxmatters@uxmatters.com. Read moreRead More>

By Junaid Asad

Published: June 22, 2009

“Social networking is now the number one reason people get online.”

The emergence and rise of social media [1] have been nothing less than phenomenal. In the perennial battle between patterns of intellect and patterns of society, the rapidly spreading influence of social media has initiated the most significant shift toward dominance of intellect [2] in recent times. A groundswell [3] has unmistakably occurred. Social media’s rise has induced a paradigm shift and changed the way the common man perceives the Internet immensely. Social networking is now the number one reason people get online. [4] Getting the world out of the socioeconomic rut it was in required something of this magnitude to come along.

Anyone who has any doubts about the ascendance of intellect over society can read some of the case studies of recent social media influences that authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research have so well documented in their book, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. [5] They describe many instances in which a rational idea has triumphed over the rules of society beneath which it was originally supposed to exist. Rationality is unmistakably one of the traits from which social media derives its strength. Read moreRead More>

By Luke Wroblewski

Published: June 8, 2009

“In a world with such low barriers to entry, knowing that you can do something can quickly become secondary to knowing if you should do it.”

As the Web has grown, the cost of getting a new application online has plummeted. Web hosting services with unlimited bandwidth and storage now cost less than ten dollars a month. Free open source platforms can easily power the back-end of an application. Free development toolkits for client-side programming (JavaScript) and styling (CSS) make building the front-end of an application much faster. In aggregate, these factors enable a new Web application to get in front of a global audience very quickly and easily.

Under these circumstances, it’s possible to launch countless ideas online. We can roll out new services fast, add new features weekly—if not daily—and do optimization testing and refinement in near real time. In a world with such low barriers to entry, knowing that you can do something can quickly become secondary to knowing if you should do it.

To stand out from the burgeoning number of products online and help your organization make the right decisions about what to build, it’s crucial to develop and stay focused on a clear value for your Web application that is distinct and obvious. In other words, you need to know your product’s core. Read moreRead More>

By Greg Nudelman

Published: June 8, 2009

“When designing the data and layout for search results pages, the design strategy boils down to a single key principle: show the greatest number of results possible, without increasing pogosticking.”

When designing the data and layout for search results pages, the design strategy boils down to a single key principle: show the greatest number of results possible, without increasing pogosticking. In other words, the challenge is finding the right balance between

  1. providing enough information in individual search results, so customers can make informed decisions about whether to view product detail pages—that is, click product links
  2. providing enough relevant search results on each page of results to warrant further exploration of the site

On the one hand, if your search results do not provide enough summary product information, you’ll force your customers to jump to individual product detail pages, then repeatedly back and forth between product detail and search results pages, like a child bouncing on a pogo stick. On the other hand, if you do not provide enough search results on each page of results, customers may not find relevant results, so may leave your site. As we will see presently, the tension between these two opposing design forces is what makes the problem of creating search user interfaces so interesting. Read moreRead More>

By Colleen Jones

Published: June 8, 2009

“Because your site’s content mediates customer relationships, it offers an opportunity to deepen those relationships.”

Want to keep your customers despite tough economic times? Don’t add yet another feature to your Web site. Stop worrying about redesigning it. Instead, take a hard look at improving your site’s content.

Why content? In this age of automation and technology, Web content is often how a company communicates with its customers. B.J. Fogg, author of Persuasive Technology, tells us that technology can be a “social actor” that “creates relationship.” [1] However, I believe the true social actor is the content that technology delivers. In fact, content can play the roles of many social actors. The content on a business Web site, for instance, may take the role of a sales executive, a customer service agent, a technical support assistant, and more. Because your site’s content mediates customer relationships, it offers an opportunity to deepen those relationships.

In this column, I will explore the idea of Web content as a nurturer of customer relationships and share a few examples of what this can mean. My focus is on company content that communicates to customers, because, in my opinion, that’s the content most in need of improvement. I recognize the importance of considering user-generated content and social media in customer relationships, but many companies first need to improve their core communications with customers. Read moreRead More>

By Traci Lepore

Published: June 8, 2009

“The first rehearsal always demands an overwhelming amount of observation and synthesis.”

A couple of weeks ago—after finishing work and putting my UX designer hat away for the day—I drove to the first rehearsal for a new theater production. Both the theater itself and the theatrical group were new to me. I had been to the theater once before, but as with all hazy memories of auditions, I couldn’t have told you much about the space. As I got out of the car and started walking to the theater it happened—as usual: My stomach starts jumping. I get anxious, and my shy side kicks into full gear. Yes, even actors get anxious and shy. The director greeted me as I walked in and handed me a script. She introduced me to the other actors who were already there. As we all sat in the lobby, waiting for the rest of the cast to roll in, we eyed each other nervously, wondering what the night would bring.

Finally, our group gathered in the theater and table talk began. (If you don’t know what table talk is, see my UXmatters column “The UX Designer’s Place in the Ensemble: Directing the Vision.”) The director gave us her speech and went over some logistics. Before we knew it, we were up on our feet and moving—creating the beginnings of our crude iteration number one. The next three hours flew by, in a blur of awkward stumbling—both physical and linguistic—as we worked through our first scenes. Once the rehearsal was over, we headed home to absorb the experience and begin our preparation for iteration number two the next evening. Some of us might have felt a little disoriented, but we have enough faith in the process to know this feeling will pass. Our rehearsal process had begun. Read moreRead More>